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Virginia-Based Gun Rights Movement Gets Renewed National Attention

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The D.C. Council is considering making the District itself a licensed gun dealer, after the city's only licensed gun dealer temporarily closed up shop earlier this year.
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The D.C. Council is considering making the District itself a licensed gun dealer, after the city's only licensed gun dealer temporarily closed up shop earlier this year.

By Jonathan Wilson

A gun-rights organization based in Virginia is getting national attention, partly because the debate over the right to bear arms is spreading beyond state legislatures and into popular retail stores.

Ian Branson admits he should be wearing a coat in this 30-degree weather, but he says a coat would conceal what he has every right to be carrying openly on his waist: a holstered, Heckler and Koch 45-caliber pistol.

Branson is part of the Open Carry movement. OpenCarry.org was founded by two Virginians in 2004. Branson says carrying the gun is a political statement, but its also more than that.

"Its for protection, I'm not going to lie to you about it," he says. "I was robbed at gunpoint when I was 21 years old, and before that day, I felt like I was Superman."

Branson says the robbery woke him up to the fact that there are what he calls unsavory characters in the world and he wanted to be able to defend himself.

Now he's about about to walk into his local Starbucks, not the first place many would expect to see someone carrying a firearm.

"I expect a total non-event," he says. "I'm going to stroll in, order a cup of Joe, and sit down, and enjoy it with you."

As expected, Branson's gun doesn't get one look from baristas, and other customers are too busy surfing the internet to notice whats holstered at his waist.

But larger Open Carry demonstrations at retailers like Starbucks have caused controversy in other states such as California, where the debate over gun-rights is still front page news.

Virginia law allows licensed gun owners to openly carry weapons, but it also allows retailers to make their own rules about guns.

Starbucks, along with electronics giant Best Buy, has said it will not restrict customers legally carrying firearms.

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